ERP systems are excellent for managing costs and the workflows around production but are not so great at managing receivables. The not-insignificant investment enterprises make in tailoring their ERP systems to their business causes many to go all in and use the receivables functionality or bold-on modules supplied by their ERP vendor.
The vast majority of our clients use SAP or Oracle, and repeatedly we find that the functionality in the AR modules leaves gaps that need to be filled to keep income flowing into the business. During the current wave of migrations to cloud-based ERP, a number of companies we deal with have elected to deploy Oracle Fusion Cloud. We pick up where Oracle Fusion stops – with portals.
What is The Gap?
Order data and line item detail are the core constructs that ERP systems work with, so generating invoices from order details is not complicated. Analysing ageing per account or per ledger is also not a weakness. Anything outside of that core order data, however, poses a problem.
In particular, systems often fall short of allowing for attachments to be presented and delivered to customers along with invoices. For this reason, Oracle Fusion Cloud users often approach us to make use of the customer portal functionality in Corrivo. Any file type and any number of files can be associated with an invoice. These associated documents or ‘attachments’ are presented on customer invoice portals that are branded and usually integrated with the company’s website.
Customers receive a secure link by email. The encrypted link takes them to the portal, where they can view the invoice and attachments, and they can download all of them either together as one document or separately as individual items. They can choose which format to download them in, too – including the ability to download in CSV format to pull directly into their own Accounts Payable systems.
The Common Problem
Years ago, one of our clients came to us and told us that hundreds of thousands of pounds were tied up in unpaid invoices because the ‘associated documents’ were not where they should be – with the invoice.
We implemented a custom solution for this client whereby the attachments were sent to us in a different data feed from their invoice data. Still, the associated documents included the invoice reference number in the file name. Other customers often send us a reference table, with each named file being associated with an invoice reference.
Either way, Corrivo matches up the invoice and the additional documents and presents them together on the portal. Even if documents come after the invoice has been issued, they can be added. This assists the buyer in their approvals process, whether the document is a Proof of Delivery note, a spreadsheet, a master agreement, or a purchase order – the supplier gets to present everything together, thus making it easy for the buyer to check approve the invoice for payment.
The NHS Gap
The NHS has partnered with Tradeshift for its Procure to Pay processes and requires suppliers to submit invoices electronically. Invoices, however, must be sent alone, while any associated documents are supplied to a separate address.
There is a constantly updated table of the relevant ‘secure email’ addresses for each buying entity to which suppliers must send associated documentation for invoices. It seems illogical to send the two things in two different directions creating work for the buyer in matching them up. This, however, is also the case with many forms of EDI.
Only some jurisdictions recommend that the electronic invoice and the PDF version of it and any associated documents be sent in a single file transmission that is wrapped and digitally signed. In every circumstance, the solution is a portal. At the end of the day, invoices are approved by people, not machines, which is why we provide portals for people and a platform for system-to-system communication of invoice data.
Even if a customer receives an invoice via the PEPPOL network or even by post, they can access a digital copy on a portal. The portal is also a resource and free archive for the customer and, because it shows the total outstanding balance across all unpaid invoices, it forces the customer to face other invoices that require their attention.
The moral of this story is, portals help you get paid faster. However you generate or send your invoices, customer portals are the key to circumventing approval issues, disputes and escalating debt.